Although The Interview (2014) is somewhat funny as one may reasonably expect from this kind of comedy, it gets excessively huge publicity from the hacks and threats that it can never get normally. The portrayal of the supreme leader looks nothing like the real person in the news, but at the end it is perhaps suitable in the context of the screenplay. In terms of plot, the average James Bond movie is a hundred times more believable than this. Anyway, I think the previous This is the End (2013) from the same directors is much funnier, more interesting and a significantly better entertainment.
McDull is possibly the most successful anime character created in Hong Kong. Although not all of its movies suit my taste, they have always been admirable combinations of kid-friendliness, humor, and themes that reflect adulthood issues and society issues.
麥兜．我和我媽媽 (McDull: Me & My Mum) (Blu-ray release 2014-12-19) has a grown-up McDull, being a detective, reflecting back on his memories of his mother. As with previous movies, it shows a distinctly Hong Kong culture and changes of society. Most importantly, it illustrates a mother’s love via a really unique way, which is related to lottery. Although not the funniest one in the movie series, this installment is the most focused. With its signature adulthood sadness, adults will likely appreciate this movie more than kids do. Even if I have only watched very few, if any, movies that primarily talks about a mother’s love, I believe this movie is one of the best movies on this subject.
Stop motion animation is always charming. Based on a novel, The Boxtrolls (Blu-ray release 2015-1-20) tell the story of a boy growing up with underground monsters known as boxtrolls, whom people are afraid of and try to exterminate. Although the movie is still fascinating, I am more interested in the subjects of previous stop motion animation movies more. I need to get used to the setting of humans being the bad guys, while monsters are good guys more.
Kikaider Reboot (Blu-ray release 2014-12-12) is a reboot of a 1972 series, featuring a man-made robot protecting the daughter and son of its creator, and of course, fighting evil. Its formula does not look much different from Masked Rider series though. Although there is no positive surprise to be found here, it does not do anything seriously wrong. When compared to some disastrous anime adaptations this is definitely better.
I think the major limiting factor of these Japanese shows is that they are too focused on hand to hand combat, and unable to integrate the environment into their fights. The climactic fight look especially small scale, when compared to an early battle on the rooftop. With larger set pieces and more inventive action sequences it may have the potential to attain some of the qualities of Robocop (1987).
屍城 (Zombie Fight Club) (Blu-ray release 2014-12-22) is a waste of time. This is shot in Hong Kong by a Tai Wan director. Strangely enough, most of the time the characters speak English and Mandarin, far more than Cantonese used in Hong Kong.
In the first hour of the movie, a bunch of random unrelated people, trapped in the same building, ran from and/or attacked by zombies. Every scene is filled with blood, gore, violence, disgusting stuff, crazy people doing crazy stuff, cleavage, and a combination of them. This is not really a problem for a zombie movie, but the fatal flaw is that all these happen without good stories or characters that the audience care for.
In the second part of the movie, suddenly a civilian survivor in the first part becomes a leader of the underground society, controls all resources, and holds other survivors as slaves. He rose to power for absolutely no reason. Anyway, the movie is only concerned about having the protagonists fight in an underground arena against the zombies, to provide entertainment for the leader. Although the idea here is marginally more inventive, the pace actually slows down, and provides no new excitement.
After enduring the whole thing, it does not even present a proper ending. The movie poster clearly reflects that the only thing potentially worth seeing in this movie is Jessica C, a pretty model. However, when covered with blood, dirt, etc. her beauty is wasted here. In fact, the production quality is also respectable for an Asian production, but it is sadly wasted by the terrible screenplay.
The Swimmers (Blu-ray release 2014-11-28) is a Thai horror movie about a love triangle – two boys and a girl. The girl seems to have committed suicide after becoming pregnant after having sex with the protagonist, cheating on her boy friend. The boy friend vowed to find out who is responsible.
In addition to the usual scares one may find in a Thai horror movie, there is another strange kind of horror that cannot naturally occur but makes sense in this movie. The use of the swimming pool is uncommon and is well done here. Instead of relying on ghost only, the human antagonist also provides good tension. The editing choices for the jumps between past and present are also interesting. This is one of the better Thai horror movies I’ve watched recently, with the exception of the ultimate ending, which unfortunately does not make sense.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the final installment of The Hobbit trilogy. The dragon is amazing. The war is magnificent with ingenious and occasionally funny tactics. As much as I love action, however, I think the balance between plot and action is off in this movie. With a clear focus on action, there is relatively less plot in this long movie than it should. In addition, the dwarve-elf romance subplot does not work because they had little screen time before, and have even less here.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Blu-ray release 2014-12-3) is an animated adaptation of a Japanese folklore. A bamboo cutter finds a baby coming out of a bamboo, happily adopts her as his daughter and raises her to be a princess. This becomes mildly tragic due to patriarchy. This movie is universally loved by reviewers, but let me say something different. I can recognize its drawings are charming in its own way, but I’m not especially thrilled by it. The whole thing is too artsy for me, and its pacing is also slow. While I understand the original folklore provided very little information about the place she really came from, I think this can be added to the movie to make the story more complete.
Predestination (Blu-ray release 2014-12-24) has to be the most noteworthy time travel movie since Back to the Future trilogy (1985, 1989, 1990). The basic story is that an agent travels through time to catch a terrorist, but strangely a significant amount of the screen time is spent on him talking to a woman, who went through a gender change operation to become a man. None of these is special, but I cannot tell you why this story is special without spoiling it. As the title suggests, the story is based on a predestination paradox, but this concept is pushed to the limits of challenging common sense, and provides a unique answer to the question of “Chicken or egg first”.
Although I find the story very interesting due to my preference of time travel, the movie lacks the tension or action required to be entertaining for general audiences.
Jossy’s (Blu-ray release 2014-11-19) is a parody of the Super Sentai series, in which 5 costumed heroes of different colors fight monsters. In this parody, all heroes are women. It focuses on their everyday lives i.e. work, instead of fighting monsters. The filmmakers seem to think that dumb means funny, so everyone, including the heroes and the monsters, act dumb. It works for a little while, but stretching it to the whole movie is just too tedious. This is almost a waste of my time.